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JWCC: Students needed for 'College For Life' program for people with disabilities

Students get ready for the school year at JWCC (KHQA/Marcus Espinoza).

John Wood Community College is looking for students to participate in their College For Life Certificate Program.

The program had its initial pilot phase last year, however, JWCC saw enough positive feedback from the pilot that it is now an official certificate program.

According to John Wood, the program is "intended for students with intellectual/developmental disability or similar learning challenges considered eligible for special education services under IDEA."

Officials with John Wood say the core courses are designed to prepare students for a successful adult life with greater participation in competitive integrated employment and independent living.

In order to successfully complete the certificate, a student has to complete 8 CFL core courses plus 10 elective courses, which is suggested to be done in a three year time frame according to the colleges website.

A few of them will be walking onto a college campus for a first time as a college student. Something they never thought would happen before.

"It was interesting! I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to do it!" JWCC student Cheyenne Gayton said.

Gayton is in her sophomore year at John Wood.

"I've been waiting for a long, long time. I want to thank her for that. Gosh, I'm going to get emotional!"

That person she's referencing is Michelle Westmaas.

The coordinator for the College For Life program.

"Our classes are non-credit classes. They're core classes that are things that you need to have skills to be a successful person with disabilities in the world," Westmaas said.

Becky Mann enrolled her daugther Gena in the program's first year and has seen her daughter flourish.

"The growth I've seen in her is unbelievable," Mann said. "She's more independent, she's more confident, she's so proud to be a college student and she's excelled."

It's a three-year program and only requires a few things.

"Students need to be able to manage themselves on campus and in class, not be a danger to themselves or others, not be a disruption in the classroom."

After that, it's up to the student to make it happen.

For Michelle, a parent of a child with a disability, the hardest part might be for the parents.

"Parents have to let go. Whether their child has disabilities or not. This is a real safe place to let go and start allowing your young adult to find their place."


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